I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve taken much advantage of digital music over the years. While I don’t use file-sharing sites, I have used subscription services extensively for the past eight or nine years. I like to think I am supporting the artists in some way by paying $10 a month to rent two thirds of my 1200+ album collection, but let’s face it, I don’t think artists really make shit from subscription services. I’ve read of speculation lately that they don’t make much off of even iTunes sales because iTunes isn’t actually buying the music, but only the rights to the music. Don’t quote me on that though.
At any rate, in the last year or so I’ve been making an effort to rebuild my CD collection and pick up some vinyl too. I remember ten years ago when I thought I was the shit because I had, like 400 CDs, including several box sets and double albums. After having pretty much all of them stolen in Iraq in 2004, my collection has been mostly digital since. Now, I’ve slowly been replacing my rented music with physical CDs and albums. Last year I realized the bargains that are to be found in buying CDs. Even Barnes & Noble has $5, $7, and $10 racks which, when you’re more of a fan of old music than current music like me, contain some great deals. Even some new releases are under $10 or $15, That can be cheaper than buying via iTunes or other services, and you have the actual product in your hand after paying.
This brings me to the past weekend. While I was anticipating the Hot Rod Revolution in Austin, I was also looking forward to visiting my two favorite music stores since this is my first trip to Austin since I moved to Waco, and for a year and a half before that.
Antone’s Records opened in 1989, when the late blues promoter and club owner Cliff Antone decided Austin needed a good place to exchange local music and music from artists like the ones who played his club. Antone’s occupies a small strip mall spot on Guadalupe St., near the University of Texas campus, with a vast collection of blues, soul, jazz, and classic rock vinyl. Stepping into the small store is sort of a trip back in time, as vinyl takes up about three quarters of the floor space. You can find anything from Taj Mahal to Thelonius Monk, from P-Funk to Willie Nelson, and pretty much every popular Texas artist besides Willie. The result of my latest Antone’s trip? The Stones’ Hot Rocks double album for $7.99 because it was missing the liner notes, Albert King’s Born Under A Bad Sign (my favorite blues album), The Police’s Outlandos D’Amour (my favorite of theirs), Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me, and Billy Joel’s The Stranger special edition double album. That’s five albums, including two double albums, for about $45.
Waterloo Records is always one of my first stops any time I’m in Austin. It opened in 1982 in a 1,200 square foot room and is now housed in a 6,400 square foot space on North Lamar, downtown. Two spacious rooms house racks upon racks of used and new, alphabetically-ordered (not categorically) CDs. The strictly alphabetical order of the music makes it easy to find any artist you may be looking for. They even had a Sleater-Kinney collection, which was sort of an obscure girl-punk band from Olympia, WA led by Carrie Brownstein, now of Portlandia fame. This was a pleasant surprise for me. Waterloo also has a sizable collection of vinyl, accessories, t-shirts and movies. Found at Waterloo Records this trip were: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, The Clash’s self-titled first album, Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night, The Who’s Live at Leeds and Who’s Next, and local favorite Ryan Bingham’s Mescalito, all for under $55.
All tallied up, that’s 11 albums, including some double albums and new-in-package CDs for around $100. I haven’t used iTunes for five years but last time I was on it, most tracks were $.99 and albums, $9.99 and up. I may be out of the loop here but I think I spent less on the CDs and I had more fun finding them. Usually, when I go music shopping, much like when I go book shopping, I go without expectation or planning on what I want to buy. You find the best stuff that way and you find things you haven’t heard in years, or may have been looking for for ages. When you visit secondhand stores, you support local business, often places that have become institutions in your town, and by buying new releases on CD or vinyl, you also support the artists a bit more than buying on iTunes, certainly more than pirating. Here’s another idea: most current artists sell their music, or even give it away, on their websites. How better to support the artist than by buying from the artist?
So, I say to music lovers everywhere, support your local music dealer!